The Limits of the Case Study: Exemplarity and the Reception of Classical Literature

09 Aug 2017

This article considers the role of the case study as a form, with special reference to classical reception studies. It considers the history and theory of exemplification within rhetoric and within literary criticism (and other forms of writing), with due attention to the special place that classicism makes for the exemplary nature of the antiquity of Greece and Rome—and thus the special place of such exemplification in the reception of antiquity by modern writers and thinkers. It concludes first that the exemplification of the case-study constructs specific models of temporality that construct the self as a historically located subject: thus we should be particularly aware of the politics of the case study, the dynamic of responsibility and response in taking the past as a model for the present. Second, it concludes that to construct a case study is to commit to a model of social epistemology—about what knowing the past is, how tradition and repetition are to be constructed. Thus, thirdly, a reader’s desire is always a constitutive but disruptive factor in the construction of the case study.